It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, “I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior caste, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural, or the lowest caste.” Or if he were to say, “I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name of family the man is — or whether he is tall, or short or of middle height …” Before knowing all this, the man would die.
Similarly, it is not on the view that the world is eternal, that it is finite, that body and soul are distinct, or that the Buddha exists after death that a religious life depends. Whether these views or their opposite are held, there is still rebirth, there is old age, there is death, and grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair…. I have not spoken to these views because they do not conduce to an absence of passion, to tranquility, and Nirvana. And what have I explained? Suffering have I explained, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering, and the path that leads to the destruction of suffering have I explained. For this is useful.”
– Buddha, paraphrased Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta.
A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied “Is that so?”
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so?” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.
If the mind is continually in good shape, evil won’t have any place to land or catch hold. But if our goodness isn’t constant, evil will be able to find a perch. It’s like rowing a boat out into the ocean. If we stay close to shore, crows flying from the shore will be able to perch on the mast of the boat. If you don’t want them perching there, you have to row out as far as you can. The crows then won’t be able to perch on the mast. If any crow tries to keep flying out to the boat, it’ll lose sight of the shore and is likely to die out there in the ocean, because it’ll run out of strength, it’ll run out of food. It’ll have to die.
In the same way, if goodness catches hold of the greater part of the mind, evil will have to circle aimlessly around with nowhere to land. If it stays close by — meaning that goodness has only a small part of the heart — evil will be able to come flying in. Sometimes it waits on the opposite shore. If your strength of mind runs low, it’ll stay right nearby and catch hold of you easily.
– Ajahn Lee.
Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the first day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.
“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out, it won’t matter how many times you say ‘I’m sorry’, the wound is still there.”
– Unknown origin.
“We are practicing sitting meditation and we see a bowl of tomato soup in your mind’s eye, so we think that is wrong practice, because we are supposed to be mindful of our breathing. But if we practice mindfulness, we will say, ‘I am breathing in and I am thinking about tomato soup.’ That is Right Mindfulness already. Rightness or wrongness is not objective. It is subjective.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Linji School, Zen.
Meditators who live close to their teacher, but who don’t understand him, are like a spoon in a pot of curry: It’ll never know how sweet, sour, salty, rich or hot the curry is.
– Ajahn Fuang Jatiko, Thai Forest Tradition.
There was an example where a monk approached Ajahn Chah and complains that as he sits and meditates thoughts of lust just take over his mind.
“I just don’t know what to do.” Said the monk.
“That’s easy,” replied Ajahn Chah, “when the next Wan Phra comes we’ll have you get up into the sermon seat, and we’ll get you to describe to all the visitors to the monastery all of your sexual fantasies from the past week.”
The monk suddenly found it a lot easier to put the thoughts aside.
– Thai Forest Tradition, Theravada.